Policy & Transportation Digest

By Michael Maurino, Director of Government Relations, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce

Tampa does well after Gov. Scott’s budget vetoes: Governor Rick Scott signed the state budget as soon as it landed on his desk this week. The Governor only vetoed $256.1 million, sparing several major projects in the Tampa Bay area, including USF’s downtown Tampa medical campus. Another project approved was funding for moving the Tampa Heights Community Center that is in the possible construction zone of the Tampa Bay Express project. Prior to the end of the legislative session, the Chamber wrote to members of the legislature in support of the Community Center funding.

Tampa at the center of U.S.-Cuban diplomacy and baseball: The week at the Tampa Chamber offices started with a visit from U.S. Commerce Department officials discussing trade with Cuba. This week will start with President Barack Obama making the first trip to Cuba by a president since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. Globally, the President’s diplomacy is seen in a more positive light, versus some negative opinions in the U.S.

Opinions this week in Tampa are generally positive, from editorials, members of Congress, and economic drivers like Moffitt Cancer Center. Moffitt is one of several groups supporting the selection of Tampa for flights to Cuba. Eight airlines are bidding for flights, but only JetBlue and Southwest are seeking Tampa flights. The three step process for applications ends on Monday, with an announcement in the following weeks.

Considering the 100-plus years of shared history between Tampa and Cuba, it is appropriate that the Tampa Bay Rays are also part of the historic trip. The Rays will play the Cuban National Team on Tuesday afternoon, in a game that will be on ESPN. The Rays will also hold skills clinics for kids in Havana.

Go Hillsborough back on track, but is there still gas in the tank? The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the awarding of the public relations and transportation study work regarding the County’s transportation plan, Go Hillsborough. But, momentum had stalled in the discussion over the last several months, including two County Commissioners releasing their own transportation plans.

The Tampa Tribune writes that Go Hillsborough is still worthy of consideration, and one of several efforts to bring Hillsborough transportation into the 21st century. The Tampa Bay Times noted this week’s fog and crash related traffic jams, plus Tampa and St. Pete both losing in the first round of a federal transportation grant competition, as proof that it’s time for Tampa Bay to think big on transit.

Upcoming events:

International Lecture Series – Global Migration: Crisis or Opportunity, March 29, 8:30am: The International Business Committee and Tampa Bay Trade and Protocol Council invite you to a lecture on global migratory issues, featuring academics and European military leadership. Go to the event page for more information and to register. This event is complementary for Chamber members.

Legislative Wrap-Up, April 8, 11:30am: The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce invites you to join us for our 2016 Legislative Wrap-Up at Maestro’s Restaurant at the Straz Center. Our state senators and representatives from Hillsborough County will discuss the outcome of the 2016 Legislative Session and the Chamber Legislative Agenda. Visit the event page to register, and for more information.

Face The Chamber – 2016 Mayor’s Luncheon, April 15, 11:45am: Join us for the Mayor’s annual address to the Chamber and Leadership Tampa Alumni membership including the popular “Face the Chamber” segment. Check out our website for more information.


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About Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce

The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce is a not-for-profit business membership organization that helps promote the businesses and business interests of our members. We come from diverse backgrounds: from small businesses, big corporations, government bodies and the military. United, we become a single, unifying force with the power to shape the future of Tampa Bay.